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Is Mexico Safe? Get the Facts!

By August 28, 2017 Countries, Destinations, Travel
Do you Think Mexico is Safe? Get the Facts!

I’m sure by now you have read, watched, or heard all the media attention given a recent death in Mexico, and shortly following, the adjustment to the US State Department’s travel warning for Mexico.

Recently, I have fielded hundreds of questions on the topic of travel to Mexico, and have taken a lot of time to research facts. In a nutshell, there are concerns you must be aware, but frankly, they are NOT what the media and some individuals think. Lets go over the major questions, and some important insights that you have not been told.

  1. The news says Mexico is no longer safe for travel, is this true?  If you plan to go to Mexico, and start your own competing cartel in the drug trafficking business, Its definitely not safe. If your intent is to visit one of the fine All Inclusive resorts, visit a port on a cruise, or experience travel with a reputable tour operator, then I would have to say your visit to Mexico will be as safe as visiting any city in the United States under the same pretense. There are no warnings that include these specific tourist destinations,  and no events that have occurred within those safe parameters.
  2. But Didn’t the State Department specifically list specific states, and the towns within those states as dangerous? Yes, the state department made some very general warnings, by state, and included the names of some cities of concern. A thorough reading of the full warning makes it very clear that the concern is outside of the tourist properties within those states, and that no US citizens have been targeted specifically because of their nationality.  If you are visiting Mexico, and staying within the resort, You should be very safe. Wandering on your own, well outside the resort, in the local community, at dark, you take a huge unsafe risk. This risk isn’t because of your race, sex, or specific nationality. Its because you are an easy target – foreigners in general have travel money and at risk of robbed, or kidnapped til you make a sizable deduction at an ATM. You could also be the untimely, unintended, victim of gang battles that occur in that location.
  3. Why were these locations specified in the travel warning? The location were listed because of an uptick in the homicides, according to data being tracked by the US State Department. These homicides were admittedly targeted attacks on individuals, likely assassinations due to their association to a gang or one of its members. These homicides were not targeted toward tourists. Again, if you hook up with a local, and go to their home for drinks, your danger risk increases many-fold. Stay in your resort, the risk is extremely low.
  4. I’m still concerned as my recently booked cruise or resort is in those areas, what should I do? First, lets approach this pragmatically. Are you afraid to travel to the United States? How about specific states such as Florida, or Michigan? How about specific cities like New York, Boston, or Los Angeles? Foreign countries have travel warnings to all these places for their citizens. I’m not talking about North Korea, but countries like The United Arab Emirates, Bahamas, France, United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and Germany all who urge caution to U.S.-bound travelers. Statistically, you are more likely to be a homicide victim in your own state than in the Mexican state which your resort is booked. In fact, the rural states in the US have higher homicide rates than the Yucatan – where Cancun and many other resort communities, are located. Then consider that your resort is a private facility, with security, gated properties, and a vested interest by the local, state, and federal officials to keep those places safe. The last thing you should be thinking about is canceling your travel. That’s a kneejerk reaction to media fearmongering. Talk it over with a travel professional, and experts of the area.
  5. What about the deaths involving tainted or drugged alcohol?  There have been reports of people having issues after drinking alcohol at resorts. We don’t have the medical facts about all of these reports, however experts have reviewed what information is available and have surmised that a variety of causes are at play. Lets break them down:
    1.  Date rape drugs are a concern worldwide, including Mexico. Spring Break has more occurrences than any other time, but you could be a target anywhere, at anytime, and at any age. Alcohol alone is the #1 drug used for date rape, so the more you drink, the greater at risk you may become. Individuals can add other drugs, and it may be wise to reject any suspect beverage, or have a test kit on hand. You can get them here.
    2. The Mexican Government has revealed that over 30% of the alcohol available in the country is actually illegally manufactured. That doesn’t mean that 30% of it is unsafe to drink – just that the manufacturers are bootlegging the product, without the proper permits, inspections, and taxation required within Mexico. Some of it may also be unsafe to drink because it wasn’t properly brewed, distilled, or blended. Recent reports at the Iberostar resort of unsafe alcohol have been levied by some tourists. While their particular experiences are tragic, there is no evidence to support that the resort was serving tainted alcohol. There is evidence to support that it wasn’t.
    3. Alex Zozaya, CEO of the resorts’ parent company, Apple Leisure Group. was recently held to task on the matter. He confirmed that the resorts owned by that corporation (and their competitors) use the most reputable supplier in the country for over 90% of their alcoholic beverages, and that supplier has no record of problems distributing illegal alcohol. Frankly, knowing this, and that other resorts have not had this problem, it stands to reason that the cause lies elsewhere.
  6. So if tainted alcohol isn’t likely the real problem, what else could it be? As already stated, date rape drugs is a possibility. However, there can also be other organic, and environmental causes. 1. Its very common for travelers to arrive in Mexico, and go straight to the swim up bar. Long flight with associated typical dehydration, warm pool water, empty stomach, beverage with high alcohol content, and overindulgence can be a recipe for a medical disaster. A Hot tub can exacerbate the risk. Taking prescription medication with any combination of the above can also result in negative outcomes. Using any drug unlawfully with alcohol is just stupid, and has resulted in fatal incidents. Let’s be honest, these are probably the most likely causesassociated with tourists, especially when those events are occurring on the day of arrival. Studies have shown that each one of these on their own, can increase your rate of inebriation two to four times the normal rate of intoxication. Combined its a much higher rate, and can replicate the same symptoms found with date rape drug cases.  Consult your medical practitioner for greater detail on how your specific body handles alcohol in these circumstances.  Or better yet, get settled in, enjoy a meal, and rehydrate with no alcohol. You have the rest of your vacation so why ruin it on the first day.
  7. So you are saying the media was wrong? Bluntly, yes. They capitalized on a tragic event, made it salacious for their own interest, and avoided factual, honest journalism. They are still painting Mexico as an CNN Screenshot of typical media coverage on Mexicounsafe place to vacation, when real data, facts, and evidence from all reputable sources prove otherwise. Look, in the last 15 years, roughly only 20 cases have been reported. For the sake of comparison, lets add 30 more cases as unreported. 10 Million+ visitors go to Mexico annually. That’s 150 million people, of which 50 people possibly had an issue with tainted alcohol at a resort, cruise, tour.. That’s .0000003 probability that you would have an issue.
  8. What can I do to maximize my safety while traveling to Mexico? First, get involved with a reputable travel professional that has expertise in your destination. He/She can offer much in ways of protecting yourself by choosing safe travel options and destinations, insuring your travel investment, travel documentation, and more. Second, while traveling abroad, register your travel with the state department through the Smart Travel Enrollment Program (STEP). Third, don’t be like most tourists who fail to get immunized for the area of travel, or take necessary health precautions. Of concern to tourists to Mexico are Hepatitis, Malaria, Typhoid, Zika, and Chikungunya. The CDC has recommendations here.
  9.  If its safe, why don’t I hear about it from the media? In my opinion, much of the US based mainstream media has become so focused on attracting your attention, and thus preserving their market share and valuable advertising income, that journalism has largely disappeared. They no longer operate foreign new bureaus, instead, they will promote the sensational points of a story without much of the less sensational, factual information. Honestly, relying on only one of two sources is going to leave you without the information you deserve to make an educated decision. In researching Mexican travel, over 100 reputable sources were utilized. What’s painful to point out is that the U.S. State Department has failed to list Alcapulco as a danger to tourists, yet it has had specific, tourist targeted attacks, homicides, kidnappings, and other events over the last 15 years, that should have it on a warning. For some reason yet to be discovered, they have failed to do so. These events are well documented in the NarcoBlog.  The media, nor the state department have been forthcoming and sharing details that are important to travelers. Frankly, Mexico has the 3rd largest homicide rate in the world, yet 90% of that occurs along the US/Mexico border and is associated with drug and human trafficking. Over 90% of tourists to Mexico do not go to these areas, instead traveling to destinations that for most of visitors, are safer than their home communities.
  10. If I have specific questions on a destination, can I ask you? Whether Mexico, or other destinations, I am happy to provide answers to your travel questions. I am associated with a number of consortiums and associations filled with experts for most destinations. If I don’t know the answer, I know who can provide  it, and I’ll share that information. The best traveler is the informed, prepared traveler. Leave your question in the comments.

Do you Think Mexico is Safe? Get the Facts!

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Explore the Splendors of Croatia – Tour Specials!

By February 24, 2017 Cities, Countries, Destinations, Family Travel, Fine Dining, Food, Tours

Explore the Splendors of Croatia

Discover this incredibly beautiful and diverse country.

Discover this incredibly beautiful and diverse country. Dubrovnik, Zagreb, Split and Zadar are among the fabulous cities reflecting its rich culture with many UNESCO World Heritage sites. You will be transported back in time when strolling through winding stone-paved streets and squares. Enjoy one or more of the 8 national parks. Forests rich in vegetation, cascading lakes and beautiful travertine waterfalls create a masterpiece of nature. Also visit the fabulous Croatian Islands caressed by the sun, gentle breezes and aromas of pine and lavender filling the air. Enjoy the fabulous beaches with their crystal clear blue sea should not be missed!

The Splendors of Croatia: Croatia Escapade

12 Day Tour
Dubrovnik, Mostar, Plitvice, Sibenik, Split, Trogir, Zadar, and Zagreb

• Two nights in Zagreb, three nights in Zadar, two nights in Split and three nights in Dubrovnik at a selected first class hotels
• Four private 3 hour walking tours in Zagreb (funicular), Zadar, Split (Diocletian’s Palace) & Dubrovnik (Rector’s Palace a Franciscan Monastery) including entrance fees
• All inclusive 7 day manual car rental with pick up/drop off at hotel
• Hotel stays include daily breakfast, service fees and taxes
• Schedule small group tour to the Plitvice Lakes National Park
• Private transfers Zagreb Airport/Hotel & Dubrovnik Hotel/Airport
11 Day Land Tour starting at
$995 per person, double occupany

Brac, Hvar, & Korcula: Croatia Island Hopping

11 Day Tour
Brac, Croatia, Dubrovnik, Hvar, Korčula, and Split

• One night in Split, two nights in Brac, two nights in Hvar, two nights in Korcula and two nights in Dubrovnik at a selected first class hotels
• Ferry transportation Split/Brac/Hvar/ Korčula/Dubrovnik
• Private transfers Split Airport/Hotel, Split Hotel/Pier, Brac Pier/Hotel, Brac Hotel/Pier, Korčula Pier/Hotel, Korčula Hotel/ Pier, Dubrovnik Pier/Hotel, Dubrovnik Hotel/Airport
• Private 3 hour walking tour of Split (Diocletian’s Palace) & Dubrovnik (Rector’s Palace & Franciscan Monastery) including entrance fees
• Hotel stays include daily breakfast, service fees and taxes
10 Day Tour starting at
$1130 per person, double occupancy

The Splendors of Croatia: Enchanting Croatia

10 Day Tour
Croatia, Dubrovnik, Hvar, Split, and Ston

• Three nights in Split, three nights in Hvar and two nights in Dubrovnik at a selected hotels
• Ferry transportation Split/Hvar/Dubrovnik
• Two private 3 hour walking tour of Split (Diocletian’s Palace) & Dubrovnik (Rector’s Palace & Franciscan Monastery) including entrance fees
• Hotel stays include daily breakfast, service fees and taxes
• Private transfers Split Airport/Hotel, Split Hotel/Pier, Dubrovnik Hotel/Airport
10 Day Tour starting at
$995 per person, double occupancy

Croatia Food Tasting

8 Day Tour
Croatia, Dubrovnik, Konavle, Metkovic, Split, Ston, and Trogir

The food specialties of the Slavonian area abound with hot spices, home grown ingredients and meat. The famous paprika flavored sausage, kulen, is usually served with cottage or dried cheese followed by goulash meat stew or freshwater river fish paprikash. Along the Adriatic coast small wine growing and olive oil estates can be found almost everywhere. Authentic stone villages and olive mills scattered all over the Istrian Peninsula will transport you to the past. One of the most recognizable culinary treasures of this area is the world known Istrian white truffle. The Dalmatian cuisine closely related with the Adriatic sea and consists a great variety of sea food dishes such as fish stewed brodettos or risottos. Fresh Adriatic fish is usually grilled with local olive oil and served with boiled vegetables which make this cuisine one of the healthiest in the world. A must-try is also Dalmatian and Istrian dried ham.

• Three nights in Dubrovnik, two nights in Split, one night in Ston, one night in Korcula at a selected first class hotels
• 7 dinners and 6 lunches without drinks
• 3 wine tastings
• Private transfers and ferry
• Hotel stays include daily breakfast, service Fees and taxes
8 Day Tour starting at
$1890 per person, double occupancy

Croatia Wine Tasting

8 Day Tour
Croatia, Dubrovnik, Opatija, Split, Ston, Trogir, and Zadar

What makes Croatia interesting for wine lovers is the wide variety of wine categories and grape types grown throughout centuries in limited space. Croatia is divided into two main wine making regions: the continental and coastal region. The delightful continental region with its unspoiled countryside covered with fruitful plains and forests in Slavonia and the amazing green hills in Zagorje and Međimurje are the main providers of white wine varieties. The Adriatic area is known for producing the Bordeaux reds like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon but also by the deep and intense colored Teran, considered the indigenous wine of Istria, together with white Malvazija. The outstanding scenery of the Dalmatian coast and its undisturbed Mediterranean vegetation is home to a stunning pallet of indigenous grape types. Tasting one of the most regarded Croatian red wines such as Postup and Dingač will take you to a fulfilling journey your senses will never forget!

• One night accommodation in Zagreb, Two nights accommodation in Opatija, two nights accommodation in Split, two nights accommodation in Dubrovnik
• 7 dinners and 6 lunches without drinks
• 3 wine tastings
• Private transfers
• Hotel stays include daily breakfast, service Fees and taxes
8 Day Tour starting at
$2160 per person, double occupancy

Interested in these tours? We are ready to answer your questions!

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Holidays on the River – Mississippi River Cruise Specials

By February 19, 2017 Cities, Cruising, Destinations, Travel

 

Lower Prices in June on the Mississippi’s most popular itinerary

Space Still Available!

River Cruises are a convenient and relaxed form of travel with all of the benefits of inclusive big ship ocean cruising, but with fewer passengers creating a more personalized, intimate vacation experience. The unique blend of stunning landscapes and profound history, acclaimed regional cuisine prepared with locally sourced ingredients, multiple dining venues, exceptional entertainment, and the adventure of exploring riverside port cities is just a sampling of the many elements fueling the strong appeal of river cruising. Imagine the freedom of unpacking only once and settling into the comforts of your classically furnished stateroom complete with every modern convenience and the addition of your own personal attendant. Sounds pretty amazing, doesn’t it?

A TASTE OF THE TRUE SOUTH

9 Day River Cruise — New Orleans to Memphis

Memory flows deep and sentiment eddies and swirls along the Lower Mississippi River. Experience authentic Southern culture as you journey through living history and soak in the romantic spirit of the Antebellum era. Fertile cotton fields, vast sugar cane plantations and imposing pillared mansions will transport you back in time, as will the Civil War battlefields.

9 Days starting at
$1,999 per person
save $600* per stateroom
June 25, 2017 – July 03, 2017
Jun 11, 2017 – Jun 19, 2017

INSIDE THE BOURBON EXPERIENCE

9 Day River Cruise — Memphis to Louisville

Learn what makes a centuries-old tradition as uniquely American as our river cruises with this rare opportunity to experience an extraordinary journey through America’s Heartland and into the roots of Kentucky’s bourbon region. This special themed voyage will take you behind the scenes and into the history books to show you where bourbon comes from, how it is made and the ways to distinguish the unique characteristics of different distilleries. Not only are there special tastings, treats, and cooking demonstrations, but also an exclusive line-up of special onboard guests. Bill Samuels Jr., son of Maker’s Mark founder, Bill Samuels Sr., will lead a Maker’s Mark presentation and tasting. Also joining Bill Samuels will be Don Flinn of Buffalo Trace whose presentations and tastings have received rave reviews on our past Bourbon cruises. Michael Veach, a bourbon historian and member of the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame, brings an unbiased opinion to any bourbon conversation and will offer tastings of some of the world’s most famous and unique bourbons. Both onboard and ashore, each day presents an eclectic blend of music, creative workshops and a wealth of enrichment that can’t be found anywhere else. This dynamic blend of historic discovery, toe-tapping entertainment and complimentary tours of the finest bourbon distilleries creates a uniquely American river cruise that you simply cannot afford to miss!

9 Days starting at
$1,899 per person
save $800* per stateroomJuly 02, 2017 – July 10, 2017

SHAKE, RATTLE AND ROLLIN’ ON THE RIVER

9 Day River Cruise — Louisville to St. Louis

Grab your poodle skirt and join us onboard as we rewind the clock and take you back to the feel-good music that dominated the 1950s and 60s. While the sound of the forties Big Band era lingered into the early fifties, the emergence of artists such as Bill Haley with chart-toppers like “Rock Around the Clock” had America swinging to a whole new sound by the mid-fifties. Along with the birth of Rock and Roll emerged other musical genres like doo-wop, rhythm and blues, and country which flowed into the early sixties. The early part of the sixties, much like the previous decade, was an extension of the doo-wop sounds and poignant ballads that had led the charts in the late fifties. The baby boomers, now teenagers, loved to dance and television shows like American Bandstand influenced the popularity of dance styles like the Twist, the Swim, and the Pony just to name a few. Enjoy a trip down memory lane with our full line-up of nostalgic activities and sensational, ensemble performances by brilliant entertainers. Dance, sing and relive the pop culture crazes of the fifties and sixties on this fun-loving, carefree cruise catered to the young at heart!

9 Days starting at
$1,899 per person
save $800* per stateroom
July 16, 2017 – July 24, 2017

HOLIDAY MEMORIES TO LAST A LIFETIME

9 Day River Cruise — Memphis to New Orleans

Amid the glittering elegance of this holiday cruise is a seasonal spirit larger than life. Experience the best of the Antebellum South during a magical time of the year and delight in all of your favorite holiday treats while getting acquainted with the classic traditions of the Cajun and Creole cultures. Sip a glass of eggnog as you listen to the sweet sound of local choirs and bands serenade you upon departure from the enchanting ports of Vicksburg and Natchez. Receive a warm welcome from strolling carolers upon arrival to charming St. Francisville. An exclusive lineup of Christmas markets offers a little something for everyone including music, seasonal goods and locally produced crafts for you to enjoy.

9 Days starting at
$1,799 per person
save $800* per stateroom
Dec. 03, 2017 – Dec. 11, 2017
Dec. 10, 2017 – Dec. 18, 2017
Dec. 17, 2017 – Dec. 26, 2017

A CLASSIC COUNTRY HOLIDAY

7 Day River Cruise — Roundtrip Nashville

Experience the best of the south during a magical time of the year and delight in all of your favorite holiday treats while getting acquainted with the classic, homespun holiday traditions of Nashville.

7 Days starting at
$2,599 per person
save $500* per stateroom
Dec. 04, 2017 – Dec. 10, 2017
Dec. 10, 2017 – Dec. 16, 2017
* Offers expire 3/31/17 or when no qualifying cabins are available. Offers are only valid on new, paid-in-full bookings. Full payment at time of booking is required to redeem these offers and cabins will not be held without full payment. Offers open to U.S. and Canada residents only. Not valid on Group bookings or existing reservations; cannot be combined with other promotions or discounts. Promotional fares and amenities are capacity controlled, may vary by sailing and may be withdrawn without notice. Cruise fare does not include government taxes and fees, port charges, gratuities, airfare, insurance, personal expenditures, and transportation costs incurred while traveling to and from embarkation ports. Not responsible for errors or omissions. Additional terms and conditions may apply.

 

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Save More Money on Purchases in Mexico!

By January 5, 2017 Cities, Countries, Destinations, For Your Journey, Products

Everyone is looking for a deal, and appreciative when it can save some money. It’s Even better when an offer of savings can apply to purchases regardless if they are on sale, discount, or clearance.

In Mexico, foreign tourists can receive a tax refund valued to 8.96% on many purchases, as part of a tourism initiative that was started in 2008. Despite its nearly 10 years of operation, it is still fairly unknown, which translates into millions of pesos left unclaimed as a refund to tourists who had visited Mexico.

Don’t be one of those tourists who leave money behind! Here is what you need to know, so you can take advantage of this promotion.

  1. Only those departing Mexico by Air or Sea can qualify. If you are going by Land, sorry, you can’t participate.
  2. Have a photocopy of your passport, Immigration Document, or Cruise Pass and/or boarding pass to attach to your documentation. Private charter fliers can participate if they can present a flight manifest.
  3. Purchase only from Mexican retailers who display the TAXFREE or MONEYBACK signage. If in doubt, ask before your purchase, if the retailer is a participant.
  4. Current law in Mexico requires retailers to provide an invoice (receipt) to every international visitor with itemized details of your purchase. On the invoice should be the generic tourist code: XEXX010101000
  5. Only tangible purchases, that will be carried home in your luggage can qualify. No services, lodging, dining, online, or shipped purchases are accepted.
  6. Only 3,000 pesos worth of cash purchases can be claimed, but there is no maximum with purchases made on Visa or Mastercard credit or debit cards. American Express credit cards are also acceptable.
  7. Retain all your invoices.
  8. Take your documentation, and invoices, to a refund kiosk located at the mall, cruise port, or airport. Additional paperwork will be completed and your refund submitted.

Mexico advertises that the refund will take 45-60 days, but some take over 9 months to process. The good news is that its money that was already calculated in the cost of the products you purchased, so the refund should be a benefit.

This promotion is available for use by retailers across Mexico, but you will likely only find it in destinations with many tourists. You will be able to participate in Cancun, Cozumel, Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico City, Riviera Maya, Riviera Nayarit, Guadalajara, Monterrey, Taxco, Acapulco, Ixtapa, Merida, Loreto, Costa Maya, Cuernavaca, Queretaro, Puebla, La Paz, Puerto Chiapas, Ensenada, Leon, Mazatlan, Toluca.

I hope that this helps you save a little more money in your travels to Mexico.

If you send me an email, I will send you, at no cost, the brochure and submission document you will need to apply for the refund.

The Brochure is available in English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Chinese, and Japanese.

 

save money in mexico

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5 Authentic Recipes from the Bahamas

By December 27, 2016 Countries, Food, Recipes

I recently made a trip to the Bahamas. If you’ve never been, you might consider a visit. Its close and easily accessible to the U.S. You can read about my visit Here. If you have spent any time on the islands, I’m certain you have encountered these dishes.

Many delicious foods are unique to the Bahamas, and I’ve chosen a few that are a top pick while visiting, that you might like to try again at home.

Peas ‘n Rice

This dish is a very common staple among the locals. It has been served in the Bahamas for as long as international explorers, settlers, rum runners and slave traders have occupied its many shores. Well… not exactly. Before rice was commonly imported, it was served as Peas ‘n Grits, and the peas are really a domestic bean from Africa, but other than those variables, its been around for a very long time.

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion – diced.
  • 1 green bell pepper – diced
  • 1/2 C  bacon grease or cooking oil
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 1/2 T coarse thyme or 2 fresh sprigs chopped
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t pepper
  • 1 t browning sauce
  • 1 large can of regular pigeon peas or pigeon peas in coconut milk (Goya brand is common in US)
  • 2 C long grain white rice – Mahatma preferred (uncooked)
  • 3 C water
  • 5 QT Crockpot

Heat grease (oil) in pot. Add diced onions and peppers, and thyme. Sweat down until onions are t

ranslucent. Then add paste, salt, pepper, and browning sauce. Stir till well mixed. Add pigeon peas, water, and stir. Bring to boil. Slowly stir in the rice, reduce heat to medium, stirring occasionally. Rice will color as it absorbs the water. When most of the water has absorbed, reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer until rice is fully cooked.

 

Historically, this would also have cooked meat stirred in, similar to jambalaya, and served as a complete meal. You could do so, or just serve this as a side. The bacon grease gives this an authentic flavor, but on the islands, you use what is available, so oil works just fine. Green pepper can be

Peas n' Rice

Peas n’ Rice

substituted with other colors, or even kicked up a notch with mild chili like Hatch or Anaheim. Don’t have any onion? Go with thin sliced celery. The point is that in the Bahamas, you use what you have, or change it to what you prefer, if the original recipe doesn’t suit your palate. Serves 4

 

Conch Fritters

Conch is a sea snail, that has been a staple in the Bahamas, even among the original occupants- the Lucayans. With the influence of many other cultures, and the availability of flour, and other vegetables, the Conch Fritter was born. Every restaurant in the Bahamas will have this as an appetizer, but you cannot go very far down a local road before you encounter a fry shop serving this as the main menu item. Frankly, they seem to taste better on the street.

Ingredients:

  • 5 C cooking oil
  • 3 medium conch – minced or ground
  • 1 bell pepper – finely chopped
  • 1 small onion – minced
  • 1 egg
  • 1 C milk
  • 1/4 t chili powder
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1 C all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 t salt

Directions: 

Heat oil in a deep fryer or large pot to 350 degrees. Clean and skin conch, remove eye,  and put through a meat grinder or food processor. Place the remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl to make a batter. Check batter for consistency. Too Runny – add some flour. Too Stiff – add just a little water. Drop batter by heaping tablespoon into hot oil.  fry for 4-5 minutes, then turn over for another 4-5 minutes, until golden brown. Allow fritters to drain on paper towels. Serve with dipping sauce

Dipping Sauce:

In a bowl, mix:

  • ½ C Catsup
  • ½ t horseradish
  • 1 T mayonnaise
  • 1/2 t worcestershire sauce
  • Salt to taste

This basic recipe is used in the home. The local shops and restaurants modify it slightly in an attempt to set themselves apart from their competitors, and you are welcome to do the same to suit the recipe to your own palate. You can find this made with the addition of celery, goat pepper, carrot, etc.

Courtesy Bahamas Travel Guide

Conch Fritters

 

Can’t find Conch, or its cost prohibitive in your area, you can substitute with canned minced baby clams. Or just throw it to the wind, and go with finely minced crayfish, shrimp, or lobster. Might be just a delicious with bacon too!

The dipping sauce is pretty standard, but if you are making your own, I’d go with Fry Sauce. Its another cultural food novelty mostly found in Utah and East Idaho. I’ll have the recipe another day. Serves 4

Conch Salad

A fresh citrus marinated salad. Its refreshing, and very popular.

Ingredients:

  • 4  conchs – skinned and cubedBahamian Boiled Fish
  • 2 freshly squeezed limes
  • 1 freshly squeezed orange
  • 1 Tomato – Diced
  • 1 Onion – Diced
  • 1 Green Bell Pepper – Diced
  • 1 t salt

Process the conch first, and add it to the lime juice in a bowl. Then prepare all the other ingre

Bahamas Conch Salad

Bahamas Conch Salad

dients. As each ingredient is completed, add to the bowl. When all are added, its tradition to mix with your bare hands, but utensils are a better idea given that this is not cooked. Dish up contents in bowls, with plenty of the marinade.

 

You can also substitute other seafood, but unlike the conch, you will need to cook them first, as this marinade isn’t going to cure the ingredients the same way as would  a ceviche dish. Some wonderful additions can be other cubed fruit such a mango or pineapple. Serves 4

Fish Boil

If you have ever had a New England Boiled Dinner, you might be thinking that this dish is similar. While its roots might be tied to British and American colonists’ boiled cooking methods, a Fish Boil in the Bahamas is a more subtle, savory dish. The fish is not actually boiled, but simmered near the end of the cooking process.

Grouper is the ideal fish among the locals, however any whitefish will do just as nicely, so don’t hesitate to try this with snapper, cod, halibut, flounder or any other suitable species. One species that would do very well for you to request from your local fish shop is Lionfish. Its an invasive non-native species in the Caribbean, and because it has toxic spines, has not been a favored catch among fishermen. Cut those spines off though, and process like any other fish, and you have one of the best tasting fish on the market. By requesting this species, you’ll create a demand for Lionfish, and perhaps its numbers will finally be reduced, so native populations aren’t as impacted by this invader. If you do get your hands on this delicious species – you will be in for a real treat.

Ingredients

  • 2 Lbs of Grouper or other whitefish. Filets or bone-in are fine.
  • 2 Limes – juiced
  • 1/4 t Salt
  • 1/4 t Pepper
  • 4 Potatoes – Large cubes
  • 2 Celery Stalks – Large Cubes
  • 1/4 Goat Pepper- diced (Or other hot pepper)
  • 2 T Butter
  • 1 T Cloves – Whole
  • 1 Garlic clove – chopped
  • 3 C Water

Season fish with lime juice, salt and pepper. Set side to marinate. In a pot, combine all other ingredieBahamian Boiled Fishnts, bring to boil and cover for 15 minutes until potatoes are just becoming soft. Uncover, add fish with lime juice to pot, setting on top of potatoes. Reduce heat to simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, or until fish is flaky. Don’t leave too long or it will fall apart, and potatoes will be mushy.

Place contents on plate, sided with Peas n’ Rice or buttered grits. Additions to consider are carrots or cabbage. Plantain also pairs very well. Serves 4.

 

Guava Duff

The Bahamas were part of the British commonwealth until fairly recently, and adapted many of their words and gastronomy. Duff is a traditional English word for pudding, and both duff and pudding have been used interchangeably in English literature. In the Bahamas it has more commonly been a substitute for the word dessert, although many of these are boiled/steamed much like English pudding anyway.

Guava Duff is served with a butter sauce, often infused with rum in true Caribbean style.

Ingredients

  • 1 C Sugar
  • 4 T Butter
  • 3 Eggs – beaten
  • 3 C Guava – mashed (seeds removed, then food processor or steamed and mashed)
  • 1 t Nutmeg – ground
  • 1 t Cinnamon – ground
  • 1/2 t Clove – ground
  • 4 C Flour
  • 2 t Baking Powder

Combine sugar and butter in a bowl, and blend till well creamed. Now add eggs, guava, and spices, blending until smooth. Add baking powder to flour and stir or sift until well mixed, then add to bowl with all other ingredients. Stir well until all ingredients are well mixed and a firm dough is formed.

Cooking has a number of options. Traditionally this would be cooked in a calico or light muslin p

Guava Duff

Guava Duff

udding bag. You can wrap in many layers of cheesecloth. If you don’t have such a bag or cloth, you can place in a long plastic bag and seal up, so long as no holes are present. A used plain bread bag would work. Another option is to use a double boiler, oil the top pot and put the duff evenly in the pot. The last option would be to put the duff in a narrow, empty can, and place in a pot of boiling water deep enough to come up to 3/4 way to the top of the can.

 

Boil / steam for 3 hours. Slice and serve with butter sauce drizzled on top.

Butter Sauce

  • 1 C powdered sugar
  • 1/4 C butter
  • 1 t boiling water

Cream butter, then gently blend in sugar, as this stiffens, mix in the water.  Melt just before serving. If you want Butter Rum sauce, just add 1/2 T of rum, or 1/4 T rum extract in the mixing process.

Beverages

Bahamian meals would not be complete without authentic drinks. Personally, I don’t imbibe, and don’t encourage it. but if you do, these drinks can be mixed with 1-2 fl oz of your favorite liquor, such a rum, gin, brandy.

Switcha

This is a staple citrus beverage in the Bahamas. Nobody is quite sure how it got its name, but it will definitely please.

Ingredients

  • 1 C Lime Juice (preferably Key Lime)
  • 1/4 C Lemon Juice
  • 1 C Simple Syrup (Or granulated sugar)
  • 1 Gallon Water

Mix all the ingredients, and chill for 1-2 hours or serve directly over ice. This is a tart, but less puckering version of limeade. To make this like a limeade, just cut the water to half. Key limes really make the difference here, but whatever limes you can acquire to juice will be fine. Least preferable would be to use bottled juice. Locals who have no lemons available, have opted to use orange juice, which is an interesting, refreshing variation. Serves 8

Sky Juice

This was originally an alcoholic beverage that required a very non Caribbean alcohol – vodka. With the exception of the resort towns, that ingredient is not as prevalent or popular, and thus it has also been made with more commonly available liquors. But there is still a large demand for it without alcohol ie “unleaded” as some locals like to say.

Ingredients

  • 3 C Coconut Water
  • 1 C Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 1/2 t Nutmeg
  • 1/4 t Cinnamon

Mix all ingredients and chill for 2-3 hours. If you have had the good fortune of getting fresh coconut water, use the coconuts to serve this simply delicious drink. It will take 5 to 6 coconuts to have enough water. You can use the Canned Coconut water just as easily. Its reminiscent of Horchata but with a tropical twist. This can also be processed in a blender with ice to create a very nice frozen drink!

 

For those of you who have visited the Bahamas, I anticipate that these recipes will bring back fond memories. Those that haven’t yet visited, What are you waiting for?  Until you can visit, these recipes will give you a small taste of the Bahamas.

bahama-recipes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Stop wasting Time in the Airport! Here’s How..

By December 15, 2016 Destinations, For Your Journey, Hacks

Think about your last visit to the airport, and where was the one place you wasted time, and it was annoying? It took extra time that you wish you could avoid.  It probably required a long line. And even if you had kiosk service, you still had to wait….

YES, I’m talking about the check-in counter!

The single largest time waste in the airport is during check-in. To drastically reduce this time requires a multi-pronged approach

  1. Book flights with airlines that allow online check-in. This will keep you out of the lines requiring check-in at the airport. A list of all airlines that provide Online Check-in is here.
  2. Fly with carry-on only. This eliminates any lines prior to the security check.
  3. If checking luggage, invest in the One Bag Tag. This high tech device replaces the luggage tracking tags placed on your luggage every time you check your bags. You will have a permanent bar code, and your flight will be tagged to that code on every flight. No more stickers, waiting for printing, removing tags, and more. It also provides real-time tracking of your luggage in the airport, and if you are separated – such as when the airline misdirects your luggage. There are other great features you can learn about in this video:

 

Implement these 3 items, and you will drastically reduce your time in the airport. To cut down on your time even more, try doing these additional items:

  1. If you travel often, take advantage of TSA’s PreCheck. This is a very short security line, and is fast. You don’t need to remove shoes, belts, liquids, and laptops. All these items make the other security check-ins much slower. Add that it has fewer people participating, and you are moving through the line very quickly.
  2. If you choose not to participate in PreCheck, then as you are in the line, queuing for your turn with the TSA Agent, have all of your items removed and placed in the outside pocket of your carry-on. This would be jewelry, belt, coins, electronic items, wallet, etc. The only items you will need are your ID and airline tickets. The you can quickly place your shoes in a bin, carry-on in a bin, and laptop in a bin, and move over to the imaging line for body screening.
  3. If you have multiple xray/screening lines, your best option is to go to those on the left. its natural for humans to go right. and unless they are savvy travelers, they will gravitate to the right. This means that even if the left line looks just as long, its likely occupied by travelers who are doing the same time saving techniques as you, and those lines will move quicker.
  4. Take advantage of travel lounges when available. Its quieter, and less crowded, so you can make last minute calls, and even find more power outlets if you need to charge devices, or connect to the online world. Often you can get beverage service, and light food – again without losing your terminal seat, and standing in a concession line. some are free, others cost a day charge, however frequent travelers can save money by purchasing an annual membership that allows access to 1000+ airport lounges. Details can be found Here.

Lastly, you can save time with your ticketing, and in the case of cancellations or severe delays, by taking advantage of Travel Insurance, and the services of a Travel Professional.  Both resources can completely eliminate standing in line for re-ticketing and booking. Just return to the lounge, and get your travel professional on the problem. Typically, they will have it solved well before you could get back to the ticketing agent, and you won’t have to leave the security zone to make it happen.

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The Most Clever Way to Save Money at Universal Studios!

By December 13, 2016 Destinations, Family Travel, For Your Journey, Hacks, Products, Travel
Clever Way to Save at Universal Studios Florida

If you are planning to attend Universal Studios, you’ve probably seen some of the pricing, and likely taken a deep breath. I can imagine its more than you first expected! Wouldn’t you like to save money on your trip? Wondering what is the most effective way to save money at Universal Studios?

The Most clever, and effective way to save money going to Universal Studios, is to attend as a GROUP! Seriously, its that easy, and the group does not have to be a large group either! In fact, the larger the group, the better the pricing for park tickets, but group pricing can begin with less than 20 people! With day tickets exceeding $100, group ticketing gets the price under that threshold.

But the savings are not just for group day tickets! In fact, if you have interest in staying for multiple days, you can really save a tremendous amount of money with a group package at Universal Studios Orlando. Here is what to expect in savings exclusively for groups:

  • Savings on Park Tickets
  • Early Park Entry Passes
  • Special discounts on select merchandise
  • Free Discount Savings Booklet worth over $150 in savings
  • Group Leader complimentary meals and services
  • Reduced hotel costs

How to Qualify as a Group

By now, you may be thinking – gee that’s nice, but its only my family, how is that going to help?

This is how easy it is to get group discounts – get a few families together, and commit to travel at the same time, and stay in the same hotel. 10 paid hotel rooms will qualify for the exceptional rates available. That’s 10 couples, and maybe less if  large families are booking 2 adjoining rooms.

A family of 4, could have the families of their children’s friends invited. Now you have 3 rooms booked. They all ask grandparents to come, and you have 9 rooms done. If every family just invited one more family or person, that would be 13 rooms, and the family organizing the trip get extra perks to offset their trip, such as free meals for one adult, and the room for free!

Or perhaps you belong to a youth sports program, club, or church group. Just about any group can qualify.

Next is to contact your Travel Professional, and work with them in arranging your group with Universal Studios. They’ll know the ins and outs of the many benefits to groups at the park, and advantages to the many options that are available. They will know of blackout dates, and when group travel is not the best savings available.

They can also offer additional options and tours to experience while in the Orlando area.

Tips for Extra Savings

One more way to save, is by booking your air travel or ground transportation as a group. It can be done on your own, Shrek 4-Dbut the easiest way is to work with your travel professional. It usually doesn’t cost you anything if this person is booking your entire package,  so you not only save money by group booking, but you’ll save lots of time and frustration too!

Traveling by motorcoach is an excellent way to save money on ground transportation. and can cost less than traveling by auto if the group is 15 or more passengers. And you’ll enjoy less hassle, have better comfort, and how cool is it to not stop every time a little one needs a potty break?! (Motorcoaches have on-board lavatories)

If you decide that you want to book your own ground travel, contact ANGL. Tell them Shawn at East-West Global Traveler sent you, and they will take good care of your needs.

PS

If you book this winter, but wait to go to Universal Studios until after June 2017, your group ticket package will include Volcano Bay – Universal’s newest theme park, That’s 3 parks for the same price as 2! Just more more way to save!

 

 

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Are you looking for Over-the Water Bungalows?

By December 12, 2016 Countries, Destinations, Travel

For many years, Tahiti has held the market for Over-the-Water resort stays, but options for other destinations is rapidly expanding!

Sandals recently debuted the Caribbean’s first-ever Over-the-Water Villas at Sandals Royal Caribbean in Montego Bay, Jamaica on Dec. 1, 2017. These are the first of their kind in the region, and are designed to “convey an intimate connection to the Caribbean Sea.”

With these new Over-the-Water Villas already in high demand, it was no surprise that Sandals Resorts has announced they are creating additional Over-the-Water suites at new locations throughout the Caribbean. These new suites will be unveiled at select “Luxury Included” resorts throughout 2017 and 2018, including 12 additional Over-the-Water Bungalows at Sandals Royal Caribbean slated to open in March 2017.

In a recent press release Gordon “Butch” Stewart, Chairman and Founder of Sandals Resorts said, “I have always said that being out on the water is where I am happiest, and with these suites, guests can experience a direct link to the Caribbean Sea.”

Each of the five villas has a different design, representing the Feng Shui elements: Wood, Water, Fire, Earth and Metal. The interior and exterior spaces are merged through expansive glass doors, facilitating couples’ opportunity to admire the beauty of the ocean from their private infinity pool, on an over-the-water hammock, or through glass floor panels.

Beyond the majestic ocean views, guests staying in the Villas have access to unparalleled services and exclusive resort amenities; from 24/7 butler service, and personalized in-room dining, to private yoga classes and direct resort access via a “Royal Duffy” luxury boat.

Additional villa features will include: “personal airport greeting with expedited immigration; private luxury resort transfers; House of Marley sound system; welcome gift, including a branded beach tote and towel set; Molton Brown bathroom amenities, free Wi-Fi and more.”

These Villas are built along a beautiful wooden boardwalk, and are connected to land at Sandals Royal Caribbean’s offshore private island, Sandals Cay. The island features a signature pool-bar; two restaurants- The Jerk Shack, offering authentic rustic cuisine and Royal Thai, capturing the flavors of the East; and a number of nestled hideaways.

Sandals Cay is a 10 minute transfer from Montego Bay’s Sangster International Airport. The hotel features over 200 rooms and suites and in addition to the Over-the-Water Villas and Bungalows, there are also recently renovated “Romeo & Juliet Suites” and “Windsor Beachfront Club Level” rooms. The “Luxury Included” resort also features eight on-property restaurant and bars, with access to 12 additional five-star Global Gourmet dining experiences at Sandals Montego Bay and Sandals Inn through Sandals Resorts’ “Stay at One, Play at Three” program.

Rates for the Over-the-Water Villas begin at $2,870 per couple, per night, while the Over-the-Water Bungalows are available for booking ahead of the 2017 debut, will begin at $2,200 per couple, per night.

But it doesn’t end there! Sandals will be developing additional Over-the-Water lodging on its other properties, and we will share those details as they become available, so “Stay Tuned!”

Ready to book? Contact your Travel Professional.

For more information on these villas, visit sandals.com.

 

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Excellent Source for Travel Brochures!

By December 7, 2016 Adventure Travel, Cities, Countries, Cruising, Destinations, Family Travel, Fishing, For Your Journey, Products, Solo Travel, Tours, Travel, Wild Places, Wildlife & Safari

If you travel at all, you appreciate the value of good travel brochures that inspire, and educate you about great destinations .

It does get frustrating when I lose them, or want to review one while I am abroad, and don’t have access to them.

Ah, but technology can fix this! If you have internet access, I have found an online source for hundreds of up-to-date travel brochures. They update regularly, and I don’t need to re-order or carry around glossy copies. I can download those that I really like, to keep with me on my laptop, or tablet.

And look, you can even sort them by location and other parameters. I’m always discovering something new in these brochures!

You can see the entire selection by clicking the image or get your Brochures Here.

Enjoy over 100 Travel Brochures provided by East-West Global Travel

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Guess where your closest Cruise Port is Located!

By December 4, 2016 Cities, Destinations, For Your Journey

Need to know which cruise port is closest to your home or desired destination? There are U.S. cruise ports in a variety of locations on each coast, so you’re sure to find one that’s convenient for you.
Need more information on the port? Click on the port location to visit the cruise port’s website.

Which port is your favorite?

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